In praise of banned books! Read one today! #BannedBooksWeek #AmReading

I’m stepping on my soap box for this blog article. If you are easily offended, please stop reading now.

Get on your soapbox... the downside includes "rude and irrational" debates.

As it is banned books week, I thought I’d talk about the importance of reading banned books. Personally, I was very lucky to have had several teachers and professors in my educational past who forced me to read books that had been banned or challenged. Native Son, Go Tell It On The Mountain, Brown Girl, Brownstones, and The Awakening are just a few examples. There were many more, but for some reason, these are the books I’ve carted around the world with me.

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Why should we read banned books? Banned books are provocative and challenging. Yikes! Why not just read something nice and easy? (Please note: There is NOTHING wrong with reading nice and easy.) The themes dealt with in banned books are anything but nice and easy. And that’s exactly why we should read them. Some of the themes of the books currently in the top 10 of banned books include: sexual violence, religion, same-sex marriage, gender identification, racial slurs. The list goes on and on.

Here’s the thing: Each and every theme used as an excuse to ban a book is part of everyday life. Sexual violence is a daily occurrence. In fact, a woman is raped every two minutes in America. Maybe if we start talking about this violence and how it’s wrong and not to be blamed on the victim, people would stop thinking it’s okay to sexually intimidate or sexually abuse another person.

Same-sex marriage, gender identification, LGBTQ rights… the list could go on. These ‘sensitive’ topics should be discussed, because they are part of life and not talking about them only makes people fearful. People are fearful of the unknown, after all.

I’ll get off my soapbox now, but I think I’ve made it clear why I believe we should read difficult books and discuss the uncomfortable issues they bring up. So, go ahead, grab a banned book and dive in.

 

My review of The Goldfinch, the 2014 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction #TuesdayBookBlog #PulitzerPrize #PulitzerPrizeChallenge #AmReading #BookReview

A popular topic of discussion while I was at a writing course this summer was reviewing classic and/or prize-winning literature and how most of us felt unqualified to do so. Oh sure, it’s easy to review literature when you love it. When you don’t? Eek! How dare I say I didn’t like a novel that has won one of the most prestigous literature prizes for the English language? Who do I think I am? My inner voice can be quite insecure.

donna tarttWith those thoughts in my mind, I will endeavor to review The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I have never been a Donna Tartt fan. But I’ve previously blamed that on language as – for reasons too boring to go into – I read The Secret History in Dutch. Let me assure you, I did read The Goldfinch in English. Unfortunately, reading in my native language did not improve my view of the novel. (Perhaps I should have read it in German?)

Reading The Goldfinch is like watching a train wreck happen – in slow motion. What’s slower than slow motion because this novel creeped along at the pace of traffic in Istanbul on a Sunday afternoon? Unfortunately, I’ve never been one for rubbernecking at accidents. Everything and anything that could possibly go wrong in the narrator’s (Theo) life did. It was painful to watch. I know this is literature and a saga to boot – but couldn’t Theo have something go right in his life?

donna tartt 2There is no doubt that the characters were well developed, although there were so many that I sometimes lost track of who’s who. My goodness does Theo know a lot of people! And some associates disappear for hundreds of pages before coming back. I had to flip back and forth a bit at times, although that’s probably my fault as I took freaking forever to read this book. Personally, I want Hobie to adopt me. I don’t know anything about antiques, but I’m willing to learn. I also loved Boris’s character. I wouldn’t trust him any further than I could throw him, but it was fun to watch the guy wiggle his way around. That said, I don’t think I’d trust Theo either.

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The actual Goldfinch hanging in the Mauritshuis down the road from me. 

Disappointedly, the novel fell apart in Amsterdam. The unfortunate part of knowing a foreign city intimately is that no one who is not native to the city can write about it well enough. I could write a list of mistakes, but only I care about that, so I won’t bore you. Suffice it to say that I had an incredibly hard time not throwing the book across the room. At least my husband found my snorting at the book amusing. (Although as a native Amsterdammer, he did sympathize with me. Or at least he pretended to – he’s not stupid.)

Nobody said I had to prize-winning literature, right? I’m giving the novel three stars as it is obviously well-written, the character development is unrivaled, and the story is unique.

 

 

#BookReview of Tossed Into Love by Aurora Rose Reynolds #Romance

tossed into love

Title: Tossed Into Love

Series: Fluke My Life

Author: Aurora Rose Reynolds

Genre: Romance

~ Blurb ~

Libby Reed is over it. Or that’s what she tells herself. She’s lusted after one of New York’s bravest for years, but firefighter Antonio Moretti has doused her interest for the last time. As much as she wants the arrogant jerk (in a bad, bad way), they can’t even be in the same room without setting each other off…which might be a problem now that she’s volunteered to help out in his family’s restaurant.

Antonio’s been burned before. Now he knows better than to trust a pretty face and follow another pair of long, beautiful legs into heartbreak. But while Libby might rub him the wrong way, he can’t deny the heat between them. And it only burns hotter when she steps up in his time of need. The closer they get, the more he realizes he may have misjudged her. Then again, he doesn’t know the secret Libby’s keeping that could send their relationship up in flames before it’s even begun.

~ Review ~

I nabbed this book from NetGalley as I’m a fan of Aurora Rose Reynolds’ Until series. I do love me some instalove. I don’t care how unrealistic it may seem. I was somewhat leery about this story as the description makes it clear this is not an instalove situation. Antonio actually sounded like a jerk from the description. I decided to give it a try anyway.

Although I liked Libby, I didn’t love her. I didn’t care for the descriptions of clothing, and Libby’s life is fashion. Something I’m not interested in – at all. I also found her successfulness at her age unrealistic. The details about her new business endeavor were missing. How in the world did she manage to do a renovation in so little time? I need her construction crew!

I liked Antonio more than I thought I would. He did have a reason for his judgmental behavior. He could have opened up his eyes a little sooner, though.

Overall, I enjoyed the story. It’s a quick, fluffy read for when you just want to relax. Nothing wrong with that. But figuring out a star rating wasn’t easy. Although the story is exactly as advertised – a light love story with a guaranteed HEA, there were quite a few things that annoyed me and the story followed a typical romance formula making it feel somewhat cliched.

~ About the Author ~

Aurora Rose Reynolds is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author whose wildly popular series include Until, Until Him, Until Her, and Underground Kings.

Her writing career started in an attempt to get the outrageously alpha men who resided in her head to leave her alone, and it has blossomed into an opportunity to share her stories with readers all over the world.

 

 

 

My Review of The Beast of London #fantasy #bookreview #TuesdayBookBlog from L.D. Goffigan

beast of london

Title: The Beast of London

Series: Mina Murry Series

Author: L.D. Goffigan

Genre: Fantasy

Published: April 17, 2017

~ Blurb ~

An electrifying retelling of a classic tale, THE BEAST OF LONDON is the first book of the Mina Murray series.

Mina Murray once lived an adventurous life, but after a tragedy in the forests of Transylvania, she left it all behind. Now she has settled into a quiet routine as a schoolteacher in London, engaged to the respectable solicitor Jonathan Harker, attempting to fit into the stuffy upper class London society to which he belongs.

Her dark past comes careening into her present when Jonathan is abducted by a group of vampires from a society ball. Determined to rescue him, she teams up with her former paramour Abraham Van Helsing and his colleague, Scotland Yard Inspector John Seward.

As they pursue Jonathan’s abductors from England to the Low Countries and beyond, Mina realizes that Jonathan’s abduction is tied to a larger threat against humanity…

~ Review ~

I was given a review copy of this novel from the author a while ago, and I finally managed to read it this past week while I was looking for something light to read. Although the novel started off slow, once the characters are introduced the action grows and it became hard to put down. I have forgotten the novel was a re-telling of a classic tale and didn’t know what I wasn’t getting myself into.

The story is told from Mina’s point of view. I enjoy reading novels written in first person and Mina was likeable and relatable. She was strong, yet damaged. I’m not sure how believable her character is for the era (would a woman in that time period gone off with two men on an adventure???), but this is a fantasy novel after all. I think I’m in love with Abraham and hope Mina opens her eyes to see what he has to offer her. *Fingers crossed for the next book in the series*

Although I enjoyed the story and would continue to read the series, I had a few problems with the novel itself. My biggest problem was the Dutch. No one would have spoken in informal Dutch in that time period, and the word choice was often incorrect. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what university she’s referring to as the Municipal University of Amsterdam (The University of Amsterdam, The VU, I don’t know). There were also quite a few editing mistakes.

I hate cliffhanger endings! I didn’t realize this book was the first of a series. I am not a big fan of series that are composed of novels that are not standalones.

All in all, an enjoyable read. I’ll definitely continue with the series.

~ About the Author ~

L.D. Goffigan writes paranormal fantasy novels. She studied film and dramatic writing at New York University. She grew up on the East Coast but now resides in a large city by the sea on the West Coast. When not writing, she enjoys traveling and dreaming of new fantastical tales to tell. Her novel, THE BEAST OF LONDON, is the first book of the Mina Murray series.

Updates from an introvert attending a week-long writing course #MondayBlogs #Swanwick70 #writerslife

I know I said I’d be offline this week while I’m at Swanwick Summer School, but I’m skipping breakfast this morning to quickly write a blog post because I’m an introvert (a loud-mouthed introvert, but an introvert nonetheless) and I could use a break from the other 300 plus delegates. So, I’m hiding in my room and drinking a coffee and eating a meergranen biscuit I brought from home for breakfast. Do I know how to live or what?

Between preparing for summer school and working on the marketing to launch Finders, Not Keepers next week (whose brilliant idea was it to launch a book days after returning from an intensive course, anyway?), I haven’t managed to finish The Goldfinch yet. To be perfectly, painfully honest, I haven’t made much progress at all. I planned to read in the plane on the way over here, but we had a 3 ½ hour delay due to a bird strike. Normally, that’s lots of extra reading time, right? Um, not if you are Dena. Dena heads to the Irish bar and has a pint (or 2… no one’s counting, right?). BUT the book is on my nightstand and I will try to get a few chapters in here and there. I will finish this book eventually. I will.

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Actual evidence

In the meantime, a quick update on The Writers’ Summer School. So far, it’s living up to my expectations. I went to two courses yesterday: crime doesn’t pay and sitcom writing. I’m not sure I can use much from the crime doesn’t pay lecture as I don’t get into forensic evidence much with my cozy mysteries, but it did get my creative juices flowing on the next book in the Not So Reluctant Detective Series. Melly is in for some serious trouble on that one. Sitcom writing is not something I’ve considered doing, but I went along to get some tips for writing funny stuff. I do try to write funny stuff, after all. The lecturer was quite good. I must admit I didn’t enjoy the group writing activity. When you’ve only just met someone, it’s awful hard to work together. #NotATeamPlayer

On the agenda today is another lecture in the crime doesn’t pay series and a short course in creating characters. I may even put on my dancing shoes and go to the disco this evening, although after last night’s horrible result in the quiz (resulting in that second ill-advised bottle of wine), I’m unsure.

Signing off …

My review of All The Light We Cannot See, the 2015 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction #MondayBlogs #PulitzerPrize #PulitzerPrizeChallenge #AmReading #BookReview

All the light we cannot see 2I’m back on track this week with my Pulitzer Prize Challenge. I’ve just finished the 2015 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, All The Light We Cannot See from Anthony Doerr. This book absolutely destroyed me – in a good way. I loved this book. Loved! Loved! Loved! I’m obsessed with WWII on the European Front, so it’s not such a surprise I would enjoy Doerr’s novel, which takes place in France and Germany in the years leading up to the war and the war itself. But this novel is so much more than a novel about the war. It is an epic story that explores the very depths of human nature.

When people ruminate about the great American novel, this is the type of book to which they are referring. Doerr doesn’t just describe Europe before and during the war. He opens the door for us to view that world through the eyes of Marie-Laure and Werner. He transports the reader to the streets of Paris and Saint Malo. You can almost taste the salt water from the sea in the air as you read. Then, he jumps to Germany and the coal mines where I could practically feel Werner’s desperate desire to find an escape from the mines awaiting him.

Saintmalo

(c) Antoine DECLERCK

After we fall in love with Marie-Laure and Werner (and I dare you to say you didn’t fall in love with these two), he slowly builds suspense as the war machine that was Nazi Germany revs its engines. My heart was in my throat as Marie-Laure fled Paris with her father. Werner’s journey was no less perilous. His exceptional skills with radios have allowed him to escape the mines, but what other horrors await him? Doerr jumps back and forth through time building and building suspense until a reader is forced to pull up a chair and turn the pages until the final culmination of the Battle for Brest and the occupation of Saint Malo.

Doerr connects the stories of the various characters in ways a reader would never suspect, but with the result that the story is interwoven in such a way as to remind us that humanity is not only made up of different tribes and cultures, but at its base we are all the same – We are all just human beings trying to survive in a sometimes extremely harsh world.

Everyone should read this novel. If nothing else to remind us of the damage caused to civilians during war.

*****

Coming up: I’m now reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I’ve been working on this book for months! The likelihood of finishing before next week is therefore low. Not to worry! Living just minutes from the actual painting, I can share some stories about it with you.